Reducing Negative Mobile Phone Behavior

by Dr. Joel Haber

Filed Under: Mobile Usage

  • I t's a fact of tween and teen life. Mobile phone misuse will be a part of your child's mobile phone experience at some time in their lives.

  • Your kids could be a target of it, involved in doing it, or observe others who are perpetrating it.

    As parents, it is critical for us to understand that typical, "well-adjusted" children - through peer pressure - can fall into mean, negative behavior through the use of their mobile phones. The inherent nature of texting and email allow users to say what they normally wouldn't to someone's face. The crucial element of seeing someone's reaction - of seeing the immediate consequences of the hurtful or inappropriate comment - is missing because the recipient is somewhere else. As a result, it's far too easy for adolescents to slip into negative behavior behind the facelessness of texting and communication in our digital age.

  • THE REALITY IS THAT NO ONE IS IMMUNE. BUT THE MORE YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS TYPE OF BEHAVIOR, THE MORE YOU CAN HELP YOUR CHILDREN.

  • It is imperative to create a more open, two-way communication with your kids in regards to difficult and sometimes embarrassing situations. Below are some tips to manage these issues as your children grow and their mobile phone and Internet usage increases.

  • Talk the Talk
  • Texting has become another language in and of itself; you need to understand what all of those abbreviations and codes mean.

  • Texting shorthand is pervasive among preteens and teens and is a prominent part of their everyday communications. The codes allow them to text more rapidly, communicate with multiple friends at once, and achieve some talking efficiency. The codes also imply a type of coolness - if you know the obscure abbreviations, you're part of the texting culture. In fact, texting codes are used so often that younger generations consider it appropriate language.

  • For example, do you know what the following mean: F2T, DIKU, PRW, PAL, IMO, A3, JK, RUT, 420, WAYN? (Answers at the bottom of this article.)

  • Prevention Is the Best Medicine

    Here are some suggestions that you can give to your children to help them navigate the various aspects of negative mobile phone behavior.

  • Never give full names or any personal information - especially passwords, phone numbers, and addresses - to anyone over a mobile phone or the internet.

  • Think twice before pressing "send" -- never text anything that you wouldn't say to your grandmother. (See the LG "Give it a Ponder" campaign as a learning tool - www.giveitaponder.com).

  • Do not respond to texts, emails, or IMs from people you do not know.

  • Pick passwords that are not easy for someone else to figure out (no birthdays, pet's name, etc.).

  • Do not share passwords, even with best friends. Parents, however, should have access to passwords for security reasons.

  • Save any and all texts, emails, or other messages that are mean, cruel, or that entail any type of threats or harassment.

  • Starting the Conversation

    Bullying over mobile phones and the Internet can be a sensitive topic, especially if your child is a perpetrator or the target. there are specific questions you can ask, however, to gently approach the subject while getting pertinent information from your kids. Of course, the tone you use will help your cause. If you come across as dictatorial, some kids may get intimidated and clam up. But, if you approach the issue with respect to their situation and feelings, you might get candid dialogue you hoped to hear.

    Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do you text more than email or IM?

  • Ever get any texts or messages from people you don't know? Do you respond to them?

  • Do you have a contact or buddy list? Can we go through it together?

  • Have you met everyone in your contacts?

  • Have you met everyone whom you text with?

  • Do you know how to block people from sending you messages?

  • Do you know about bullying over mobile phones and the Internet? Have you ever seen it happen? Have you ever participated in it? Has it happened to you?

  • How would you respond if someone were sending you cruel or mean texts?

  • Who would you go to if you felt threatened by a text or email?

  • Do you have a blog? Any pictures of yourself online? Would you show me?

  • REMEMBER, BEING NON-JUDGMENTAL WHEN SPEAKING TO YOUR CHILD IS CRITICAL TO THE PROCESS OF BUILDING A SAFE, TRUSTED, AND OPEN COMMUNICATION CHANNEL FOR HIM OR HER

  • Your children's mobile phone is a privilege and not a right. So it is important that they use it for positive interactions and that you as a parent can have a dialogue together if things go wrong. The more you understand how your kids use mobile phones and the Internet, the better you will be able to protect them from negative behavior in this environment. It's malicious and a growing problem, and tweens and teens don't fully understand the consequences when they play a role in it. But awareness and action can help defeat it.

    Ultimately, we want our children to trust us when they get into a problem situation and talk to us about it. After all, isn't that what good parenting is all about?

  • *Texting codes:

    F2T = Free to talk

    DIKU = Do I know you?

    PRW = Parents are watching

    PAL = Parents are listening

    IMO = In my opinion

    A3 = Anywhere, anyplace, anytime

    JK = Just kidding

    RUT = Are you there?

    420 = Let's get high/let's party

    WAYN = Where are you now?

    Visit www.LGDTXTR.com for a comprehensive glossary of texting and online terms and codes.

Filed Under: Mobile Usage

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joel Haber

Dr. Joel HaberThe official bullying consultant to the American Camp Association, Dr. Haber leads popular workshops and conference sessions on bullying and violence prevention nationwide.

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